According to a new study published by Jordi Sunyer and his colleagues from the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL), Spain, air pollution slows cognitive development in children.

They found that children attending schools with higher traffic-related air pollution had a smaller improvement in cognitive development. For example, they measured the working memory development in children in different schools of Barcelona. Their conclusions (see the figure below) show that the working memory development is lower in children living and studying in high traffic air pollution areas.

On the figure below, the dashed line corresponds to schools with high traffic air pollution and the continuous line corresponds to schools with low traffic air pollution.

image

To draw these conclusions, the researchers measured different cognitive outcomes (working memory, but also the attentiveness of children) every 3 months over a 12-month period in 2715 primary school children attending 39 schools. They compared schools with a similar socio-economic index.

These findings suggest that the brain may be vulnerable to traffic-related air pollution, especially during its early development. This new study should be taken into consideration for the choice of new schools’ localisation in our cities and more generally  to design air pollution regulations in the future.

Source: PLOS Medicine.

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